WakeMed Celebrates 50 Years of Caring for the Community
WakeMed, formerly known as Memorial Hospital of Wake County, was dedicated on April 9, 1961, and officially opened for business that same year on April 24, so it is birthday month at WakeMed!
In honor of our 50 years of care and caring, all inpatients at our WakeMed Raleigh Campus and at WakeMed Cary Hospital will receive special birthday treats on Monday, April 25 (in deference of Easter Sunday).
As we celebrate our 50-year-milestone birthday, we look back at our earliest days, when the people of Wake County were asked to vote on the proposed construction of a new hospital to our first facilities, physicians and staff members.
1955-1969: A Rock Solid Foundation
The Founder: Bill Andrews, CEO 1957-1983
On December 13, 1955, Wake County voters made history by approving a $5 million bond issue to fund the construction of one of the nation's first multi-hospital systems - today's WakeMed Health & Hospitals. Its purpose: to provide Wake County residents with greater access to the high-quality health care services they need in a growing community.
Built on a foundation of solid granite bedrock, Memorial Hospital of Wake County was dedicated on April 9, 1961 and officially opened April 24, 1961. Its opening drew picketers from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, who believed African Americans were not welcome in the new facility. But the hospital's first Chief Executive Officer William F. Andrews quickly put their minds at ease.
How to convince physicians to come to Memorial Hospital became Andrews' next challenge. Its East Raleigh location was unpopular with physicians. They had to travel difficult roads and often arrived at the hospital scowling because of the speeding tickets they incurred.
While Andrews masterminded strategies to attract physicians, the eager nursing staff - some from the former St. Agnes Hospital - also earned the respect of physicians for their meticulous, compassionate care. Their efforts were supported by the newly incorporated Auxiliary to the Wake County Hospital System Inc.
As the team persevered, physicians recognized that the latest technology and an exceptional staff were readily available at Memorial Hospital. More and more, they made the effort to travel those difficult roads, and the hospital began to succeed.
With a solid foundation in place, Memorial Hospital of Wake County was ready for the next decade.
1970-1979: Expansion & Innovation
As residents watched Research Triangle Park grow into a world-class center for technology, Wake Memorial Hospital focused on bringing revolutionary new medical technology to the Triangle continued with fervor.
From computerized axial tomography to cardiac catheterization, Memorial Hospital is credited with making revolutionary medical technology conveniently available to Wake County residents. With the addition of technology came advanced medical expertise to provide specialize, comprehensive critical care patients.
1980-1989: A Culture Shift
Raymond L. Champ,
After 26 years of building and leading Wake County Medical Center, William Andrews stepped down as CEO to enjoy his well-deserved retirement. With a keen eye on the importance of exceptional customer service, Mr. Andrews' successor, Raymond L. Champ brought with him innovations to create a vibrant corporate culture.
Wake County Medical Center's cultural shift corresponded with the nationwide rise in customer expectations. Our world was speeding up, and consumers began to demand convenience, responsiveness and exceptional quality from retailers, restaurants, airlines and, yes, health care organizations. Even the name Wake County Medical Center was changed to the more concise Wake Medical Center.
As the organization's corporate culture received an infusion of innovation, Mr. Champ did not ignore one of our founding principles -- improved access to the right care for Wake County residents. This concept continued with flourish through the 1980s as our system grew and diversified in terms of services, facilities and technology.
1990-1999: Setting the Stage for the Future
As Americans gazed in wonderment of pictures of the Mars planet surface taken by the Pathfinder Sojourner Rover, one concept became very clear: The future holds endless possibilities.
Closer to home, we saw a bright future for our corner of the world as we watched the Triangle population grow and diversify along with our marketplace. At Wake Medical Center, customer service minded CEO Ray Champ kept a keen eye on these changes. He charged himself, the health system leadership, the medical staff and employees with the task of finding new and better ways to deliver care, determining the right services to fit the changing needs of area families and, in keeping with the health system's founding principles, continuing to improve access to care.
The result was an historical event for the health system second only to its dedication and opening in 1961. That event was the health system's transition from its roots as a publicly owned county health system to a privately owned, not-for-profit network of leading health care facilities and services. Yet another name change -from Wake Medical Center (and its formal title Wake County Hospital Systems, Inc.) to today's WakeMed Health & Hospitals.
With this historic step many of those possibilities that Mr. Champ and the WakeMed Team became realities for the residents of the Triangle.
2000-Today: 50 Years of Care & Caring
William K. Atkinson, II, PhD., MPH, MPA,
CEO 2003 - present
Cost, quality and access. These three concepts dominate WakeMed's fifth decade and likely the thoughts of WakeMed's third chief executive William K. Atkinson, II, PhD, MPH, MPA. As Wake began to eclipse Mecklenberg as the state's most populated county, the WakeMed mission of providing care to all who enter our doors became more challenging.
Dr. Atkinson and the entire team at WakeMed continue to meet this challenge by creating strong relationships throughout the community, region and state, and expanding services, capabilities and campuses. In a highly advanced and thriving community such as ours, families need and deserve ready access to affordable, high quality health care services. From simple primary care doctor visits to advanced, comprehensive critical care, WakeMed continues to provide these services where and when people need them.
Today, WakeMed Health & Hospitals is the largest private employer in Wake County with more than 7,600 employees, 2,000 medical staff members and 1,400 volunteers strong. From our hospitals, to our practices, to our healthplexes and medical parks, we offer our compassionate care and advanced services in nearly 50 (and growing) touch points throughout Wake County.
Our 50 years of care and caring would not have been possible without the countless individuals, families, organizations and businesses that have and continue to support us in our mission. Thanks to you and our dedicated, highly skilled staff, physicians and volunteers, we have a world-class health system right here in Wake County and it will continue to grow and diversify for many years to come.